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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

UAE cricket stars 'miss massive opportunity' to beat Ireland in tri-series ODI

Coach Dougie Brown disappointed after hosts drop crucial catches in four-wicket defeat after reducing full member nation to 91-5 at one stage

Rameez Shahzad top-scored for the UAE on Thursday, but he also dropped a crucial catch later. Pawan Singh / The National
Rameez Shahzad top-scored for the UAE on Thursday, but he also dropped a crucial catch later. Pawan Singh / The National

The UAE were left ruing a missed opportunity to register a historic victory after they were beaten by Ireland in the first one-day international of the tri-series in Dubai.

A brilliant century by Ed Joyce guided the tourists to a four-wicket win at the ICC Academy, but the margin of victory says little of how hard the Irish were made to work.

The national team had struggled to 222-9 from their 50 overs, faced with a green pitch, crisp batting conditions following the 9.30am start, and an impressive Irish pace attack.

They were, though, well placed to bring about a shock win when the excellence of their bowlers, led by Mohammed Naveed, reduced the away side to 91-5.

The national team let their chances slip through their fingers – literally, via two missed chances in the field.

Joyce had been dropped on 8, by wicketkeeper Ghulam Shabber off Rohan Mustafa’s off-spin, when the score was 40-2.

Later, Gary Wilson was dropped at point by Rameez Shahzad off Qadeer Ahmed. He was on 10 at the time, and went on to make a half-century and share in the seminal stand worth 131 with Joyce.

Both chances were hard, perhaps only qualifying as half-chances, but were the sort of catches which must be taken if wins against sides of Ireland’s standing.

Had things worked out differently, the UAE might have been celebrating a first win ever over a full member nation, after 24 years of trying.

UAE coach Dougie Brown appeared more frustrated than at any point in the 11 months he has had in the job so far.

“We have missed a massive opportunity,” Brown said. “At 91-5, despite playing the last five overs of our innings badly, 222 was still competitive and looked a long way off at that point.

Ireland's Ed Joyce took advantage of the UAE's fielding lapses to score a match-winning century. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Ireland's Ed Joyce took advantage of the UAE's fielding lapses to score a match-winning century. Chris Whiteoak / The National

“It looked like from that point on we took our foot off the pedal, and for some reason sat back. Whether we expected them to fall over and die, and we get that wicket and win the game, I don’t know.

“We have made it pretty clear that we can’t afford to do that. The last 20 overs is not how we want UAE to play our cricket.”

Ireland have yet to play a Test match, but were elevated to the top echelon of the game by the ICC last year.

Even before having their status upgraded, Ireland represented a major scalp for the UAE, as wins against them have always been rare.

When the national team beat them in a Twenty20 international in Abu Dhabi in 2016, it was the first time they had beaten Ireland in any format in 15 years.

“By a mile, the most important match for us is on February 8 in Namibia, but this was a great opportunity for us to take a scalp,” Brown said, looking ahead to the final phases of World Cup qualifying, starting in Namibia next month.

“We have managed to squander it.”

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Joyce said his side felt no more pressure to succeed than they did last time they were here, when they played UAE in two ODIs 10 months ago, while still on equal status with their opposition.

“I think there has been a target on our back in the past three or four years, and not because of this full membership stuff,” Joyce said.

“We have been elevated, which is great for us, but we certainly still want to keep playing the teams at our level.

“We certainly still consider the UAE to be a very good team. Scotland are the same, and we would never look down on someone else.

“These games are big games for us, and we are taking them very seriously. We are chuffed to get a win.”

Dougie Brown, giving his UAE players a high-five before the game, was disappointed by the end of it. Pawan Singh / The National
Dougie Brown, giving his UAE players a high-five before the game, was disappointed by the end of it. Pawan Singh / The National
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